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Networking: Making Professional Connections

 

Today, most people do not land jobs purely through application to online and offline job postings.  Today, 80% of company hires are in some way "already known" to the employer through a shared contact in their professional network.  Networking -- whether through a pre-planned meeting or an impromptu conversation at a conference, career fair, information session, or anywhere else -- will likely help you find your first job and also be crucial as you advance in your career.

 

Benefits of Networking

  • You may learn about job opportunities early in the search process, when employers can still potentially influence the job description to align with your skills
  • You’ll face less competition, as only a few other people will access the organization through networking
  • You may be recommended by someone the manger knows, which will give you an added advantage
  • You’ll access potential employers who may not otherwise respond to an unsolicited resume

 

Everyone is a Possible Contact

You may not know it, but your personal-professional network is already quite large.  It includes family members, family friends, peers, classmates, social organizations, clubs, advisors, professors, internship supervisors, past employers, co-workers, and recent graduates.  But your most valuable contacts will probably come from people in your immediate network who can connect you with individuals from their own network of contacts.  By cultivating your immediate network, you gain access to an extended professional network.  Here's how to develop and extend your network:

  • Tell family, friends, other students, and immediate contacts about your career interests. Ask who they know that you might be interested in learning about or meeting if they would introduce you.
  • Share relevant contacts from your network with others and you will usually find such favors returned to you in kind
  • Join professional associations in your field and attend conferences. These are excellent networking resources, both online and in-person. Google “professional associations” and the name of your field, and you’ll find many options.  Your professors and teaching assistants can suggest the ones most appropriate for you.
  • Contact former employers, direct supervisors and internship sponsors.  Describe your professional interests today and ask if they can suggest contacts.
  • Conference with faculty members, who often have connections with local businesses and employers in their field. 
  • Attended a lecture or read an article by someone in your field.  Contact the person and express your interest in their topic and let the conversation develop.
  • Reach out to a company or organization directly to ask well-researched and appropriate questions.

Once you have identified potential networking contacts, the next step is to speak with them. An informational interview is a good low-pressure way to begin a conversation that can provide you with first-hand information about a career, trends in that field, details on hiring, or insight on the specific skills or qualities that employers are looking for. Read more in our section on Informational Interviews.

 

Events and Networking Opportunities

As a UMass Amherst student, you can meet and interact with employers on campus in several ways: visit one of our career fairs, attend an employer information session, or take part in on-campus interviewing.  To find out when these events are scheduled, check the weekly emails we send you and see our Calendar.

 

Career Fairs

Many employers use on-campus career fairs to promote their job opportunities and to pre-screen applicants. Most of these fairs consist of booths and tables staffed by recruiters and other representatives from each organization. For students, a career fair can be an excellent place to gather information about potential employers, make professional contacts that could lead to a job, learn more about an employer’s application process and timeline, and discover new options for applying your skills in the workplace.

Approach every job fair professionally. Bring copies of your resume, prepare to pitch yourself to potential employers, and dress and act appropriately. More information on career fairs, and tips for making the most of these events, are available in our handout: Make Your First Professional Contacts at the Career Fair.

 

Employer Information Sessions

Employer representatives like to visit the UMass Amherst campus to provide in-depth information about currently available positions, career paths, and life at the organization. These employers are often seeking many different majors for different parts of their companies.  Bring thoughtful questions, dress appropriately, and use these opportunities to make a great first impression. Employers might ask you to schedule an on-campus interview for the next day!

 

On-Campus Interviews

You may get opportunities to interview with prospective employers when they are on campus. The companies who come to campus to interview are generally larger ones who:

  • Are seeking entry-level employees
  • Anticipate multiple openings across departments
  • Have budgets allowing staff to travel
  • Previously hired students from UMass Amherst

The scheduling of on-campus interviews is managed through the UMass Amherst CareerConnect portal. On CareerConnect, you can find lists of employers who have scheduled interviews as well as links to job descriptions and application instructions.